(Ray)
(Fogra 29_WF)Job:08-28858 Title:RP-Writing & Research for Graphic Designers
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(Ray)
(Fogra 29_WF)Job:08-28858 Title:RP-Writing & Research for Graphic Designers
#175 Dtp:225 Page:113
110-133_28858.indd 113 8/30/12 4:47 PM
Writing & research for graphic designers
(Text)
112
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it is difficult
to get the concept across if we continue to use the word “failure”
in that sentence. People have a natural aversion to the term, and
it is next to impossible to reclaim it for pedagogic purposes.
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure,
what we really mean is that it is valuable to do something
multiple times, learning lessons from each attempt and ap-
plying those lessons to subsequent versions. This is a tough
bargain, requiring both patience and diligence, and not a
little thick skin.
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it
is in the rewards of persistence where the true lessons lie. And
the lessons of persistence can only be learned by those who per-
sist—a kind of chicken and egg conundrum that can never be
solved, save by those who, you guessed it, can tolerate failure.
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it is
really the notion of iteration that we should be concentrating
on. It is the repeated doing of a thing that makes it better
not unlike learning any skill but this is a difficult thing to
get across to designers. They are pleased to get a thing done
even once, never mind multiple times.
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it
is iteration that should be up on the marquee. But it is not
so much the “teaching” of iteration that we’re talking about;
rather, it is the appreciation of iteration. And this requires
a stern but empathetic taskmaster, first external, but in the
end, from deep inside.
For all the talk of
the value of learning
through failure, the
quest for perfection
is what we’re really
talking about here.
It is the doing and
redoing of a thing
that gets one close to
the ideal remov-
ing the extraneous
and preserving the
essential —ultimately
driving something
toward its elemental,
rarefied state.
For all the talk of
the value of learning
through failure, it is the pursuit of success that fuels the fire.
In trying to succeed at something, we are destined to miss the
mark on occasion, but to say that every time we fall short of
“success” we “fail” is l ike saying that every time we don’t win
a baseball game we lose one. Wait, I guess that is saying that.
CASE STUDY:
on failure
allan chochinov
Editor-in-chief of Core77 and chair of MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts, New York
(Originally pulished in Design Disasters [Allworth Press, 2008])
Cover designed by James Victore.
(Ray)
(Fogra 29_WF)Job:08-28858 Title:RP-Writing & Research for Graphic Designers
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section 4
learning from experiences writers discuss their writing
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113
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it is
really humility at the heart of the matter. It takes guts to rec-
ognize when something isn’t working, and bravery to attempt
to do it again. It is the calling on these emotional components
that make “failure the best teacher,” not the successful or less-
than-successful completion of the task at hand.
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it is
the concept of rigor that deserves the discourse. And although
it is often the first gesture which, in the end, remains standing
as the best, rigorous investigation through multiple variations, if
What was your motivation to write this article?
I was thinking about the theme of the book and how, for designers, the
notion of learning through failure was a true yet frightfully clichéd idea.
Instead of some thoughts or discourse, I figured I might try to actually
demonstrate it in the text itself. It didn’t take long to come upon the idea
that the last paragraph would be identical to the first, since that it’s also
true too often that our first idea is our best. Anecdotally, I don’t think
all readers register these bookends, though, so perhaps a bit of a failure…
in the end.
What is the value of repetition in a written piece?
I’ve always felt that repetition will let you get away with murder. I play
music, and so if I’m doing a solo on guitar and I mess up, I just repeat the
mess-up two more times (three’s the key) and then it seems totally inten-
tional. It’s the same in oration or ad pitches, or really anything. Humans
crave patterns, and they’re pattern seekers, and they really get a lot out of
seeing things over and over, and repetition is a really, really great way of
driving home a point.
not generating better alternatives, will, at the very least,
confirm what was first best all along.
For all the talk of the value of learning through failure, it
is difficult to get the concept across if we continue to use the
word “failure” in that sentence. People have a natural aversion
to the term, and it is next to impossible to reclaim it for
pedagogic purposes.
Allan Chochinov Talks about the Writers Attitude
How does your writing process differ from your design process?
That’s a great question. The palette is different, at least for me; I’ve always
been more verbal than visual. But I like making things, and when I’m mak-
ing something I’m almost not thinking at all. I’m not sure that that kind
of blank flow happens in my writing, though. I give myself lots of games to
play and external constraints when I write. (I have a series of “1000 Word”
essays that each have exactly 1,000 words in them.) I don’t really need to do
that in design because design is such an obvious puzzle to begin with. So
I guess I’ve made them the same by puzzle-izing them both. So to answer
your question: They may differ, but not if I have anything to do with it.
Does the act of writing often change the way you look at the topic/
issue at hand?
Oh, of course. It may be true that there are two kinds of writers: those who
need to know where they’re going and those whose entire fun is in the
getting there. The first creates outlines and plotlines and diagrams; knows
the end at the beginning. The other kind, in comparison, seems downright
reckless, but frankly, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Writing about contemporary design culture often means having
to go head to head with individuals who you consider to be
implicated in harmful or inane design activity . . . .
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